Kolkata witnessed an unprecedented series of events last night when a team of CBI officials were detained by the state police after they paid the police commissioner a visit to obtain crucial information regarding the Saradha scam.
The CBI claimed that the police had taken charge of all evidence and documents pertaining to the investigation and a lot of it had already been caused to be disappeared. Since then, the West Bengal Chief Minister has been sitting on a Dharna and the matter has reached the Court.
It is necessary to look back at the events that preceded the extraordinary step taken by the state police in order to understand their motivations for doing so.
The Saradha scam broke out into the open in 2013 when a ponzi scheme run by the Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies, collapsed after collecting hundreds and thousands of crores from over 15 lakh investors.
The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI probe into the matter in May, 2014 after pleas were filed by advocates Pratim Kumar Singha Ray, Abu Abbasuddin and Subrata Chattoraj. The Court considered the inter-state ramifications and the larger conspiracy angle in mind while delivering its verdict. It also directed the state agencies to assist the CBI in its investigation. The West Bengal government had opposed the CBI inquiry into the scam in the Court.
Senior leaders of the Trinamool Congress have been alleged to be intimately involved in the scam ever since the CBI initiated its investigation. In December 2014, state transport and sports minister, Madan Mitra, was arrested by the central investigative agency in connection with the scam. Mitra was accused of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation.
The TMC had then called it a criminal conspiracy as well despite the fact that two Rajya Sabha MPs, Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, and party Vice-President Rajat Majumder were behind bars for their involvement in the scam as well.
Sudipto Sen, CEO and CMD of the Saradha Group, in a confessional letter to the CBI in 2013 made several claims with far-reaching political implications. In the letter, Sen claimed that he had not only paid hefty pay-out amounts to Trinamool leaders but also influential Congress leader in Assam Matang Sinh, and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram’s wife Nalini Chidambaram.
Sen also submitted a list of 22 people who had “used” him to make money. The list reportedly contained the names of at least 5 political leaders. He also claimed that a business lobby close to TMC had “forced” him to undertake loss-making ventures.
After the events of last night, the Congress party, at least its central command, have come out in strong support of Mamata Banerjee, who they had once accused of looting the state. Recently, Nalini Chirambaram was charge-sheeted in the Saradha scam. According to the charges filed by CBI, Nalini Chidambaram had received ₹1.4 crore from Sudipta Sen, the prime accused in the case. CBI says that Nalini Chidambaram conspired with Sudipta Sen with an intention of cheating and misappropriation of funds. She took the amount of ₹1.4 crore between 2010 to 2014, according to the chargesheet.
If we consider the current state of the investigation into the scam, at least 4 senior Trinamool leaders have been arrested so far in connection with the scam. The wife of a senior Congress leader and former Union Minister, has been chargesheeted by the CBI as well.
To make matters worse for the TMC, the CBI also suspects that Sen had purchased Mamata’s paintings for huge sums of money. Recently, it was reported that the agency had questioned Manik Majumder in connection with the case who is believed to be a close aide of the Bengal CM. The CBI suspects that Majumder had knowledge about the purchase of paintings by Sen and that he is a key player in managing the funds of the party.
Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. And the unprecedented actions of the West Bengal government yesterday may be seen in that light.